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France draws up new internet surveillance anti-terrorist bill

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In an effort to strengthen its counter-terrorism laws, France is considering a bill that would allow the monitoring of websites. This new development is in response to a wave of terror attacks by Islamic extremists in recent years; the most recent was last Friday.

During a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, a draft legislation legalizing the use of algorithms to surveil activity on jihadist websites was presented to President Emanuel Macron. The bill would strengthen the counterterrorism law introduced in 2017, following a terror attack in Paris by Islamist gunmen and suicide bombers two years earlier.

The 2017 law, which was to be reviewed after 4 years, gave intelligence agencies the authority to use algorithms to monitor messaging services. It also bolstered surveillance by police, to include measures such as “home visits” to persons suspected of terrorism.

The new bill would make the existing measures permanent, and extend the use of surveillance algorithms to websites.

“The last nine attacks on French soil were committed by individuals who were unknown to the security services, who were not on a watchlist and were not suspected of being radicalized,” Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin told France Inter radio.

“That should cause us to ask questions about the intelligence methods we’re using,” Darmanin continued. “Terrorists have changed the methods of communication. We continue to be blind, monitoring phone lines that nobody uses any more.”

For example, last Friday’s attack was conducted by a Tunisian immigrant after watching videos praising acts of jihad. He killed someone who worked for the police in a commuter town in Paris.

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